With the snow and ice finally receding, the Old Raby hunt at Witton Castle managed to stage their re-arranged meeting this weekend and both Richard Smith and Callum Bewley were the pilots in form with two winners a piece.
When the Americans come over it tends to be for Royal Ascot, but in this case it was to ride in points as Annie Yeager won the Ladies Open on her British debut.
The Cherry Coward-trained Laertes was giving Annie Yeager her first ride in the UK, however it was not her first overall, as she has ridden six point winners in America along with one on the track.
The pair took a while to get jumping but stayed on well up the straight to hold off Chip N Pin under local jockey Becky Mason who couldn’t quite peg back the 12-year-old.
Although it did not come as a complete surprise, Cherry was unsure what to expect from her winner, “He’s only been in work five weeks, we’ve just had him on the walker and hunted him before that.” said Terrington-based trainer Cherry.
Annie will hope to remain in the UK till the end of February where she will gain further experience on the Yorkshire circuit.
Callum’s first winner came in the Mens Open race aboard the Jackie Williamson trained Fiftyfive Degrees who was returning from a three-year absence after previously been trained by Pauline Robson.
The pair led approaching five out and gradually strolled clear to win by 15 lengths.
The early pacesetter Cocoa Key was back in second, while favourite Code Blue was never travelling and always had to be bustled along by Colm McCormack to be a distant third.
Callum, who starts work for Sue Smith very shortly went on to take the Maiden race aboard Treacle Moon for trainer Steven Todd who was recording his first winner for 20 years where he trained Dee Cee Flyer to victory.
Treacle Moon had been absent from the track for five years, in which time she had also had a foal.
Second place went to the debutant Volo Mio and Richard Smith and a race should be within his grasp while Moor Flora, who now joins the Susan Grant yard, was in third spot.
Richard Smith started his sequence of winners in the Intermediate race where there were four runners, all of which completed and have therefore qualified for the final at Cheltenham.
The Rustlin Rhino sat in second for most of the race and came out on top after a dual with long-time leader Mister Splodge over the final two fences and Adin Abroad travelled up strongly entering the home straight and looked dangerous, however the front two pulled out more near the last, with half a length and three lengths separating the trio.
Richard then went on to complete his double in the Restricted aboard Slick Operator, trained by David Dickenson.
The seven-year-old was a bargain purchase after been picked up from Doncaster sales for a mere £1000.
The pair made good progress and leading over the last stayed on well to win from Mister Bloom in second.
The winner was formerly owned by Trevor Hemmings and cost £40,000 after breaking his Irish maiden, a first time tongue-tie looks to have brought him right back to form after losing his way under rules.
Favourite Battle Range was never travelling under Jacqueline Coward but managed to stay on for third.
The Club Members race went the way of the John Wade-owned and trained Digg Whitaker under Colm McCormack.
The pair were somewhat gifted the race after Ballabrace departed at the last when in with a chance and runner-up Miss Chatterbox’s greenness got the better of her approaching the last.
The well-backed winner was sent for a season pointing as he is still a bit green and should improve further with time. Mighty Magnus ran another creditable race to finish third.
Winners were as follows:
Maiden Conditions - Digg Whitaker (Colm McCormack)
Intermediate - The Rustlin Rhino (Richard Smith)
Ladies Open - Laertes (Annie Yeager)
Mens Open - Fiftyfive Degrees (Callum Bewley)
Restricted - Slick Operator (Richard Smith)
Open Maiden - Treacle Moon (Callum Bewley)